Byelections often have low turnout, and the recent one to fill a vacancy on the board of education for School District 71 was no exception.
With a population of more than 5,000 for Area C, there were 3,000 ballots printed for the byelection. With the size of the population, the district had to hold two advance voting days, on Dec. 2 and 10, as well as general voting day on Dec. 12.
In the end, there were only 129 valid ballots cast and one spoiled ballot in the byelection. The problem was not a lack of interest among candidates, as six people had put their name forward, but rather very few people voting.
“Generally, byelections do have a low voter turnout,” new secretary-treasurer Brenda Hooker informed the board at the Dec. 15 meeting.
By comparison, in the 2018 municipal elections, Ian Hargreaves won the position for Area C with 1,141 votes. Terence Purden, who withdrew but whose name still appeared on the ballot, garnered 238 votes.
This time, Cristi May Sacht won the trustee position with 52 votes. Monica Parkin was second with 26 votes, Purden had 23 votes, Rob Thompson had 10 and Kandice Bielert had eight. Randi Baldwin did not receive any. By comparison, she ran in 2018 for the Comox seat on the board, and while not successful, she attracted 1,128 votes.
School officials acknowledged pandemic restrictions might have played a part in the low turnout among voters. The district parent advisory council did hold an online forum for candidates in November, so people could learn more about the six candidates.
Following the Dec. 12 vote, chief election officer Clyde Woolman made a declaration of the results on the morning of Dec. 14, leaving 10 days subsequently for any kind of challenge to the results. After that time, the ballots can be destroyed.
Board Sheila McDonnell said she, too, had joined the board following a byelection and conceded it can be difficult to get people’s attention outside of general election time, especially with COVID-19 restrictions.
“I’m sure that was a real challenge for all of them,” she said.
Assuming no one contests the results, May Sacht will join the board after being sworn in for the January meeting.
“I know we’ll all look forward to having another person at the table,” McDonnell said.
The position came available when Hargreaves resigned as chair and trustee at a meeting in early September.